facilitating & hosting

A World Cafe for the Vancouver Startup Community: WeAreYVR

This week I had the great fun of collaborating with Claire Atkin of WeAreYVR and Todd Sieling, Tylor Sherman, Arian Khosravi and Sam Dal Monte of Denim & Steel.

WeAreYVR is a not for profit, collaborative project, with the goal of making Vancouver’s startup community more connected, transparent, and welcoming. In March WeAreYVR received enough municipal and provincial funding to build the web platform and information hub. This is exciting as the conversation about the Vancouver startup community and its potential has been going on for some time, and the funding will help create the platform for the community to gather data and other useful information to make it visible to itself and others exploring Vancouver for their startup, talent or investor funding home.

WeAreYVR hosted a roundtable discussion on April 1st with a diverse group of people connected to Vancouver startups to learn more about Vancouver’s startup community: the unique assets and qualities, the different kinds of information that would be beneficial for the community to access, and other trends in what people need and what they can offer to nourish the community and help it realize its potential. Along with some creative drop cards and web surveys, the insights collected from the roundtable will be used by Denim & Steel and WeAreYVR to inform the creative identity and web platform build.

I was brought in to help design and facilitate the roundtable. We used the World Café format, which as a process is great for finding out what the room knows, while fostering interaction, dialogue, and relationship building.

WeAreYVR Cafe1

In small table groups, we explored three questions over the course of the night:

  1. What are the best and most unique qualities of the Vancouver startup community? Think about what do you value most? What attracts startups to Vancouver? (Other than the quality of life or ‘Beautiful BC’.)  And how or why these assets and qualities are beneficial to startups?
  2. What do we need to know that could transform the health of the Vancouver startup community for the better – help it realize it’s potential? (Not what we need to BE, what do we need to KNOW.) And if we had that information, how would you use it?
  3. Think of your work, and the projects/people waiting for you tomorrow or later this week. What is something you need right now that someone else at your table, or in this room, might be able to help with (other than funding!)? And what is something you could offer, that someone at your table or in this room could be looking for?

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During the conversation people sketched their ideas and doodles on the paper tablecloths, linking connections and patterns that emerged as the conversations flowed. We also collected key insights through SMS Harvest as well as some old-fashioned sticky notes. It was cool to see matches being made when people named what they needed and heard what others could offer. This “connect” and “nourish” are two important activities for supporting they growth of a healthy system.

For more on these concepts see this article “Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale“.


We closed with the invitation for people to say a few words on how they were feeling and what they were leaving with at the end of the roundtable. There was a sense of optimism, of reflections on the process, the value of sitting down together around questions that matter, on wanting to invite more people into the conversation, and questions about how this will all come to life.

Here is a quote I shared at the closing of the session:

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. ~ Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

This roundtable conversation is a launching pad to more engagement and interaction with the startup community – both online and offline, and I’m excited to see how the conversation continues and more critical connections are fostered.

Update: See this beautiful piece written by Denim & Steel about the synthesis and sense-making from their identity research. And more photos from the session can be found here and here.

WeAreYVR Cafe2

WeAreYVR Twitter2WeAreYVR Twitter1

One reply on “A World Cafe for the Vancouver Startup Community: WeAreYVR”

Amanda, thanks so much for this writeup and for the fantastic job facilitating the roundtable. So much came out of just one evening! It’s an especially challenging job to create a brand identity for a community, but we’re feeling very confident about our next steps having such clear and positive contributions from its members. Thank you!